Prior to the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, Lewis Hamilton had cut a frustrated figure during the latest Formula One season. Despite recording as many wins as his closest rival and Championship leader Sebastian Vettel, he had lacked consistency while his Mercedes has continued to underperform against an improved Ferrari.
The landscape changed after the British Grand Prix, however, in the wake of a dominant victory for Hamilton that took him to within one point of Vettel at the top of the Drivers’ Championship.
In this post, we will look back at the race and assess what impact it will have on the remainder of the season.
The Race: A Record-equalling Victory for Hamilton
Hamilton delivered a faultless performance at Silverstone, leveraging his knowledge of the track and natural competitiveness to dominant his rivals. In taking the chequered flag, he also secured his fourth consecutive win at Silverstone while becoming only the third driver in history to achieve five career wins here (joining Scotsman Jim Clark and the legendary Frenchman Alain Prost). His first victory had come here when Hamilton when still a novice McLaren driver back in 2008, and he has certainly come a long way since then.
In truth, Hamilton’s brilliance ensured that much of the drama took place behind him, as he converted a dominant pole position into a 57th career victory and fourth this season. Even the presence of the safety car during lap five failed to halt Hamilton’s charge, with the Englishman building a five second lead by the eighteenth lap before blowing the field away. Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas ultimately secured second place behind the 32-year old, with Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen claiming third despite suffering from a front-left tyre failure.
The same issue also impacted on Championship leader Vettel, whose front-left tyre failure occurred with just two laps to go and saw him drop from third to a disappointing seventh place. This was the cherry on the icing from Hamilton’s perspective, as it enabled him to slash Vettel’s championship lead from 20 points to just one by the end of the race. This was just the tonic that Hamilton needed, and the exuberant celebrations that took place after the race seemed to reaffirm that Hamilton was once again in the midst of a title challenge.
What Does This Win Mean for the Remainder of the Season?
From a short-term perspective, Hamilton’s win has certainly blow the Drivers’ Championship race wide open. While Vettel remains top with 177 points and three wins to his name, for example, Hamilton has secured four victories and now sits on the German’s shoulder with 176 points. So while Vettel’s performance to date and the consistency that he (and his car) has show this season clearly distinguishes him as the deserved F1 Drivers Championship favourite, Hamilton is now hot on his trail and a genuine contender once again.
Next up is the Hungarian Grand Prix, which takes place in Budapest between the 28th and 30th July. Hamilton will undoubtedly see this as a tremendous opportunity to build on the momentum of Silverstone and claim top spot in the Drivers’ Championship, particularly after winning last years’ rate comfortably and in similar circumstances too. He controlled the 2016 iteration from the very start, holding off then-teammate Nico Rosberg to win the race and claim the Championship lead for the first time in 2016.
Interestingly, Vettel could only finish fourth last year, with Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo holding off the German’s challenge to claim the final podium place.
Of course, this was not enough for Hamilton to win the title ahead of Rosberg last season, but taking top spot in the Drivers’ Championship at this stage would certainly provide a timely boost for the Englishman. After all, his natural talent has been let down by mechanical failures and a sustained lack of consistency during the last two years, so it is crucial that Hamilton makes the most of these periods when he is at the top of his game and capable of recording consecutive wins. This may enable him to build a sizeable lead that Vettel will find difficult to surmount, particularly with just 10 races left once the chequered flag has been take in Budapest.
A Clash of the Titans: Who Will Prevail?
In many ways, the clash between Hamilton and Vettel is a titanic one, particularly given their respective pedigree and deserved reputations as two of the greatest F1 drivers of all time. While three-time champion Hamilton is blessed with the greater natural talent and superior driving skills, Vettel is similar to last years’ champion Rosberg as he is seasoned, capable and extremely consistent during throughout the year. A clash of styles and personality, much will depend on Hamilton’s ability to harness the natural advantages that he has over his rivals.
After all, last season followed a similar course, as Hamilton recorded more wins than Rosberg while combining bursts of consecutive victories with periods of misfortune and inconsistency. Ultimately, Hamilton’s talent was not enough to overcome these issues, leaving Rosberg in a position where he could ease to the title. Vettel will be hoping that something similar will happen this year, and will back himself so long as he remains competitive and can secure top-three placements to augment his victories.
Hamilton’s fans will point to numerous engine failures for their charges’ failure to win the title last season, and in some respects it is hard to dispute this. Mercedes have certainly made incremental improvements this year, however, and these have proved crucial as Ferrari have produced consistently excellent drives so far this year. Given the fine margins that separate success from failure in elite-level sport, the combination Mercedes’ improved performance and Hamilton’s natural ability could well see the Englishman earn a fourth Drivers’ Championship.
This has yet to be seen, of course, but there is no doubt that both drivers will fight to the end to claim the ultimate prize of the 2017 Drivers’ Championship.